Work has begun on Reno’s long-awaited white-water park in the Truckee
River, a project supporters say could significantly enhance efforts to
market the area as an outdoors adventure destination.
After a funding shortfall threatened to delay the project for a year,
crews on Wednesday diverted the flow of the Truckee River from the channel
north of Wingfield Island, so serious digging can commence there by next
By November, the $1.5 million project — the centerpiece of planned
improvements along a 24-mile stretch of the river from Verdi to Vista —
should be complete. A lot of folks will be waiting with paddles ready.
“Reno just doesn’t have a clue just how nice the river will be,” said
Charles Albright of the Sierra Nevada Whitewater Club, a primary advocate
of a park that will be the first of its kind west of the Rockies.
The white-water course will encircle both sides of the island that is
Wingfield Park. The south channel will be reconstructed to serve as a
slalom racing course for kayaks. The north channel will be for freestyle
kayak rodeos, rafting, inner tubing and other types of white-water
Construction of the project this summer was made possible by a $1.5
million loan announced in late May, days before a deadline arrived that
would have forced a year’s delay. The Eldorado and Harrah’s hotel-casinos
and the city of Reno will provide the upfront cost, which ultimately will
be covered by the proceeds of a Washoe County bond act approved by voters
It is expected the white-water park could draw as many as 50,000
kayakers per year and as many as 100,000 spectators, according to the
Nevada Commission on Tourism. They say it could also go a long way toward
furthering efforts to promote the Reno area as an outdoor destination and
diversify a gaming-dependent economy.
“If we look back five years from now, I think we’re going to say this
was a turning point,” said Lt. Gov. Lorraine Hunt, chairwoman of the
Truckee River Whitewater Steering Committee and the commission on tourism.
Hunt was scheduled to join Reno Mayor Bob Cashell and other officials for
today’s official groundbreaking for the project.
Special events like kayak races may well prove to be Reno’s “savior” as
the community faces challenges like those posed by the proliferation of
gaming, Hunt said.
“It’s our job to sell it and this kayak course is going to give us a
focus,” Hunt said. “I just think it’s going to be a real catalyst.”
If hopes in Reno are high, they’ve already been realized in places
including Golden, Colorado, where a white-water park was built several years
ago and expanded into the downtown area last year. Golden City Manager Mike Bestor said his city enjoys about $2 million
in economic benefits from the park annually. Although Bestor could not
provide attendance estimates, he said evidence of the park’s popularity is
“You see the cars with the boats on them all over town,” Bestor said.
“The guy in the bagel shop says he does a great business.” Bestor said there’s little doubt that construction of the Clear Creek
Whitewater Park has been a boon to his community. “I think it’s been a great advantage to us,” he said.
Frederick Reimers, managing editor of Colorado-based Paddler Magazine,
said the country’s rafting and kayaking community is paying close
attention to the Reno project. Although some other white-water parks are larger in size, Reno’s park
has a larger budget and more white-water “features” than most — including
standing waves for surfing kayaks, Reimers said. It is particularly
impressive because the park is being built in the core of a major downtown
urban area, Reimers said.
“I think people are really impressed that a major city like Reno would
care that much about recreation and river health to do something like
this,” Reimers said. “It’s one a lot of people are keeping their eye
on.” Those that think the place will only be used by hard-core
adrenaline junkies likely will be surprised, Reimers said. “What people in Reno will find is it’s used by everyone,” Reimers said.
“People of all ages will flock to that project.”
River flow altered for work
Even before today’s ceremony, crews from Incline Village-based Cruz
Excavating, Inc. were hard at work. On Wednesday, workers blocked the flow
of the river’s north channel by erecting a temporary dam. Flow in the north channel was reduced to a trickle after a row of
boulders and a 17-foot-wide, 8-foot-tall “aqua dam” [AquaDam®] were placed across the
channel entrance to divert the river flow to the south channel. Once work
is finished in the north channel’s riverbed, the south channel will be
blocked in the same manner, shunting the water flow to the north.
Officials from the Nevada Division of Wildlife on Wednesday conducted a
census of fish in the project area as part of an effort to gauge impact on
the fish population. The addition of deep pools that will come as part of
the project should actually enhance fish habitat, department spokesman
Chris Healy said. Contractors also are required to minimize the amount of sediment
entering the river, which serves as the primary water source for the
Reno-Sparks area, while work occurs, said Steve Brehler, foreman for Cruz
“They hold us pretty tight in what we’re allowed to send down that
river,” Brehler said